Cirque Italia’s Aquatic Spectacular is not the Ringling Brothers. And that is a good thing. Don’t come to this circus expecting elephant walks or tiny cars stuffed full of clowns. Nope. Cirque Italia is something different. Something special.
This is a place steeped in history, where the offspring of roaming nomads from as long as 200 years ago marry the circus of their ancestors to modern day, cutting-edge technology. Where age-old acrobatics and high wire feats are filtered through walls of water and electromagnetic laser lights. Where Puccini and Verdi smash into the theme song from SpongeBob SquarePants.
“We’re a European-style circus, so that means it’s much more intimate … it’s much more personal; it allows the performers to connect with the audience better,” said Morgaine Rosenthal, the show manager and aerialist.
This intimate connection hits you the moment you walk inside the white and blue circus tent. It smells the way a circus should smell, of popcorn and cotton candy. Vendors in top hats and colorful jackets shuffle through the crowd, hawking everything from snow cones in strobe-lighted glasses to Venetian sabers.
Don’t be surprised later when you see these same people flying through the air onstage. “We all wear a lot of different hats. You’ll see that some of the performers are scanning your tickets, or some of the performers are seating you or selling you popcorn,” said Rosenthal.
It takes about 50 people to set up the Ferrari designed circus tent that travels to a new city each week, 11 months out of the year. It’s a lot of work.
This is apparent as the small stage floor rises to expose the 35,000 gallons of water performers cycle through, juggle through, fly through, and play a magical game of “how did I change into 10 different outfits, on stage, in a matter of minutes?”
One thing is for sure. The audience does connect. Perhaps it’s because the seating is so intimate. Perhaps it’s the way performers draw people in with edge-of-your-seat balancing acts. Or perhaps it’s the Master of Ceremonies who decides to throw out the high tech for a minute and run through the crowd with a rubber chicken on his head.
“I’ve never seen a water circus before, so this is very exciting for me,” said Alex Diaz who came wearing his Bronco’s jersey and Super Bowl hat. He was missing the Broncos vs. Cardinals game to sit front row with his date. “I’m older, but this reminds me of when I was a kid. [It’s] something you don’t see every day,” said the Aurora resident.
There’s also a lot you don’t see in other, bigger circuses. There are no animals by design. Rosenthal said they are about pushing the human body and “leaving the lions and the tigers in the jungle where they belong.” Except for dinosaurs. You will see dinosaurs. There’s even a bit of dinosaur toilet humor thrown in (you’ll just have to go, because I’m not describing it here).
It’s appropriate Cirque Italia opened in Aurora–the state’s most diverse city. There are performers from nearly 20 countries within the company’s three circuses. Everyone I spoke with described it as a big, international family. Rosenthal said most of the performers grew up in the circus, as did their parents, grandparents, and so on.
“We like to travel, and we get to see different places,” said Anita Zeman. She and her husband Karchy are third and second generation performers, respectively. They’re passing this nomadic way of life down to their own two children who, at the ages of 15 and 5, are home schooled and travel with them.
The Zemans met while working with their families at a circus in Ireland 24 years ago. “I was working with my brothers on the trapeze, and he was working with his brother and friends, and we met and got married,” said Anita.
Theirs is a marriage of trust. Big trust. Every night Anita wraps her feet around Karchy’s neck and lets him spin her through the air. On roller skates! On a small platform! In the middle of water! “Danger’s my middle name,” joked Anita.
The couple was on America’s Got Talent in 2016, around the same time they left Circus Circus in Las Vegas to join the growing Cirque Italia. It is currently in its fifth year of operation.
When asked if the show was worth missing the Bronco’s game, Diaz hesitated only slightly, “Ahh, go Broncos, go Broncos,” he said. Followed by a laugh and a resounding, “Yes. I would recommend it for sure.”
Cirque Italia will be in Colorado for another month at the following locations:
Aurora, Oct. 18-21
Littleton, Oct. 25-28
Broomfield, Nov. 1-4
Colorado Springs, Nov. 8-11
Pueblo, Nov. 15-18
You can get tickets through their website at cirqueitalia.com, by phone (941) 704-8572, or at the box office the week of the show.